BY CHARLES OSBORN
There was a lot of hand-holding in Flushing this past weekend, but not for the reason you may think.
The New York Arm Wrestling Association (NYAWA) hosted the 36th Annual NYC Big Apple Grapple International Arm Wrestling Championships at Flushing watering hole Cheap Shots on Saturday, April 27. It was the first time the competition took place in Queens.
The contest is usually at more notable Manhattan locations such as the Javits Center. Cheap Shots still drew male and female participants bent on testing their mettle against the best in the city. Competition categories included left- and right-hand bouts as well as amateur and professional divisions. Regardless of the category, every match was worth watching. Every athlete had a story to tell.
Michael Selearis, a schoolteacher from Connecticut who won the left-handed 200 pound weight class, is a 27-time national champion.
He estimated he has participated in more than 1,000 matches from Canada to Bulgaria.
“There is so much ego involved,” he said, “so much technique. Whether a guy is 140 pounds or a monstrosity who can bench press 500 pounds, if you have the right technique, you can take down anybody. I’ve seen it happen.”
Despite the confrontational style of the competition, the mood in Cheap Shots was friendly. Many of the contestants know each other from past competitions.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years,” Long Island native Greg Gavin said. “I’ve seen a lot of these guys before,”
The female competition was just as, if not more exciting than the men’s tourney—even though you could count the number of female participants on one hand.
Ana Kenah, who has not lost with her left arm in two years, took the right-handed crown away from last year’s champ, Joyce Boone.
“If anyone is going to beat her, it’s going to be me,” Kenah said before her momentous victory.
Kenah found her way into arm wrestling by playing rugby at Humboldt State University in California. She has since been competing inNew York, and currently lives in Jersey City. Kenah trains for matches up until the week before. She is now the reigning female champion with both arms.
The right-handed men’s 200 pound champion was crowned in a battle of technique against sheer size.
Mike Ayello, a physically-imposing New York firefighter, beat former national champion Jason Vale in a well-fought match.
The NYAWA’s next event is the 30th Annual Bronxboro Arm Wrestling Championships at the Bronx Week Food and Arts Festival on Sunday, May 19.